Here we go again! Another year of healthcare and another year of pay bargaining. I see the DoH in the form of Stephen Johnson has floated a 2% across the board annual uplift for NHS staff, below the retail prices index inflation figure of 3.3% (1). The NHS has never really solved the dilemma of the annual pay round, i.e., whether to have one large national negotiation with all of the health unions or to leave it to the market and allow the Trusts to determine pay and conditions locally. Instead, we always get a fudge where there is much lip service paid to local pay bargaining but Chief Executives are set clear national pay boundaries to stay within.

Surely the 30 or so existing Foundation Trusts will break out of this and start to set their own pay rates. With a projected shortfall of nurses to the tune of something like 14,000 by 2010-2011 (from the DoH’s own current workforce growth projections) this can only be good for qualified nurses who will be able to negotiate better than average settlements for themselves based on a market shortfall of their skills. It would, after all, be gratifying to see Consultant pay pegged for a while and qualified nurses pay go up in real terms. With a similar excess of consultant grade doctors to the tune of 3,200 by 2010-2011, this is what should happen. It will be very interesting to see if a Labour Government for once, doesn’t ‘stuff the doctors’ mouths with gold’ but allows nursing to catch up the medical profession a bit on pay. I hope they do because it is only this kind of market mechanism that will result in more young people wanting to join the nursing profession.

(1) ‘Warning over union action on pay’: Helen Mooney, HSJ, pp 9 4th January, 2007.